KZN Inland U18 girls show excellent performance at Nationals

2013-07-16 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Inland U18 girls’ hockey team did the province proud with their excellent performance at the SA Nationals last week at Kearsney College.

Coach Binks Robertson, assisted by the experienced Keith Fairweather, prepared the players well for their tournament. Robertson coached most of these provincial girls for two years at U16 level and both times they won bronze at their respective tournaments, so moving up with the team to U18 made fine-tuning a lot easier.

“The difference between this team and all the other teams at the Nationals was that this team was consistent in their play,” said Robertson.

“They played as a unit. The first match against Northern Gauteng was crucial as it set the tone for the week. The girls outplayed the Blues, winning 3-1.”

Robertson said the best pool game was against KZN Coastal, where the KZN Inland team dominated the entire match and won it 2-0. Other Pool matches: Southern Gauteng B 4-1, Eastern Gauteng 7-0, Western Province 0-7.

“The team hit a dip in their last pool game against WP. They were physically and mentally exhausted after four great wins against big provincial teams. This was perhaps a good lesson for the team, and the management team were confident that they would bounce back after the loss,” said Robertson.

The team reached their goal of making the top four. The cross-pool play-off against Boland saw Inland lose on a penalty shoot-out. KZN Inland faced Northern Gauteng for the bronze medal. A short corner was awarded in the second half that Natalie Esteves of Inland put away.

Northerns scored a field goal a few minutes later to level the scores. Then it was straight into the penalty shootout and KZN Inland keeper Buhle Zondi denied all five players from scoring. The score was still 0-0 with four of the KZN Inland girls also missing their opportunity. It was down to Esteves who beat the keeper and scored the winning goal to allow the KZN Inland girls to win the bronze medal. Boland were the overall winners of the tournament, beating Southern Free State 3-1 in the final.

“The ladies displayed fantastic discipline, teamwork and collective skills throughout the week,” said Fairweather. “There is a great deal of individual talent in KZN Inland, and that individual talent was orchestrated to form a winning combination. The schools in our province can be very proud of their players and their performance, as they gave of their very best.”

Team captain Katie Polkinghorne said: “Our success was because we played as a true team and because of excellent preparation as well.”

SA tournament team selection: Katie Polkinghorne (St Anne’s) and Paige Phillips (St Anne’s) both SA U18. Buhle Zondi (GHS) and Natalie Esteves (St John’s) both SA U18A. The U17 players chosen for the Junior World Cup training squad: Buhle Zondi, Natalie Esteves and Nomazamo Zuma (GHS).

Meanwhile, the KZN Inland U16 girls under coach Robyn Dyer ended seventh at their tournament in Potchefstroom, with WP winning the tournament. Inland girls selected for the U17 Junior World Cup training squad: Nompilo Thejwayo (GHS), Polly Mashau (GHS), Prudence Qwesha (Voortrekker).

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